Council’s Disrepair ‘Claims Farmer’ Scam Warning to Tenants
Mid Devon Housing is warning tenants to be wary of ‘claims farmers’ operating in the area. These calls may be from unknown numbers or even local lines.
These companies operate by cold calling, leaflets and social media to encourage tenants to pursue claims against their landlord for disrepair. These companies will claim to be calling from ‘The Housing Maintenance Department’, ‘Repairs Team’ or even ‘working on behalf of the Council’. When asked, they will refuse to provide a genuine company name and any call back number provided will be a false number.
Tenants’ personal details are then often sold to no win-no fee solicitors. This personal information is likely to be sold at profit to these third parties so we advise you to only share your data relating to you and your household if you are absolutely sure that you know who will be receiving it. It is worth thinking about who might benefit from having your personal details before disclosing anything to any callers. In many cases, tenants will then find themselves with legal costs to pay even if they later withdraw their claim. In other cases, any financial reward will be less than a tenant could have been offered with a genuine claim through the Housing Ombudsman Service.
The council’s message comes after several incidents in the Mid Devon District where vulnerable tenants have been targeted by such companies. Previous cases dealt with by the council have seen claims management companies delay submitting the claim until the tenant’s cooling off period has ended. In these cases, the council has completed repairs in the meantime resulting in the claim not being upheld.
We urge tenants to be wary of any cold calls they receive and to seek advice from council officers or a genuine solicitor before signing any documents. Tenants are also reminded that, as part of their Tenancy Agreement, they must let us know quickly if any repairs are needed at their home.
Council tenants in Mid Devon, can report repairs and seek advice from their local housing team by calling 01884 255255, emailing email@example.com, submitting a report using our web contact form, visiting our Facebook or Twitter pages.
If you are dissatisfied with any housing or repairs service you have received, or feel that you are entitled to compensation, there are a number of options available to you, both informal and formal. Our complaint procedure allows tenants to raise concerns and request that the service ‘makes it right’. Tenants can log complaints by phone, in writing, by email or online.
Local Councillors, MPs, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, charitable organisations and legitimate solicitors can also support tenants with the complaints process. Where a tenant remains dissatisfied with the outcome the Council’s complaint process, they have the benefit of the Housing Ombudsman Service, who can impartially investigate complaints and have the power to award compensation and order repairs.
In 2019-20, the Housing Ombudsman ordered landlords to pay a total of more than £400,000 in compensation, with 39% of complaints being found in favour of tenants.
Mid Devon Housing has received 14 Disrepair Claims since 2019, with no compensation being awarded in court, or even reaching court, to date. In these cases, for most tenants involved, the claim only slows the repairs process down. We believe that many of these solicitors are unscrupulous and do not have a tenant’s best financial or health interests at heart and will often advise tenants to refuse access for repairs. In many cases, tenants may be liable to pay court costs even if on a no-win no fee basis.